The Confluence of Chance and Destiny

Selling a place you love: is less like finding someone to adopt a pet than it is like seeking a peaceful and secure passage into another life for dependent next-of-kin. We can’t just drop this place off at the curb and drive away. So we need help spreading the word, not as much about the REAL estate as the LIVED estate in being here.

Some of you know a lot about that, because I’ve certainly poured my morning musings and my camera’s view of the world close at hand onto the page now for so many years.

We imagine that, at just the right time, just the right words will turn just the right future owners towards Goose Creek. And it may be for them like it was for us–a place they’d never been but longed to find. And having found it, they will know it is home.

I doubt this connection will happen because of Zillow. It will come to pass because good people tend to meet the needs of other people. And somebody knows somebody who needs this place; they know that somewhere in their sphere of connection, there is a synergy between a couple they have known and this place they have heard so much about or have visited over the years.

And so in hoping for all this to come about, it disappoints me to know that the only medium we have to express what we offer and to offer what a buyer is looking for is the cold, impersonal Zillow-type just-the-facts.

What sold me on the place (granted by that time we had bought the bare-bones farm) was the totality of the place–not the things listed as features but the context and aesthetic placement of house and creeks and ridges and ravens and white pines. It was the local ecology and resonance with my bones. I’m not sure what else to call it.

How do you sell all that to a person visiting for an hour, deciding “is this home for us?”

But any serious buyer of the sort we imagine fitting well here will come back soon after the first visit and walk the pasture loop; and another visit, will walk the boundaries; and a final one to just lean back against a tree in the Fortress of Solitude and be, for a few minutes, a part of the web of all-that-is on Goose Creek.

Then they will know that they have found just this place both by chance and by destiny or design or fate or by God’s plan, as they will see it come together. It will be right.

A buyer who only buys property without this wider awareness will not know these things. They will not understand that we leave a piece of ourselves in every corner of this fragment of Earth, and hope to hand this home place over to others who will do the same.

But then, we are not in a position to let poetry win over practicalities. We can dream, but we also need to move out and away, best offer wins, and life goes on.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I hope you won’t let practicality rule if you have two offers and one of them shows all the signs of loving your place that you described. I hope you accept their offer even if it is for less money.

  2. This process is breaking my heart in — may I say it — a beautiful sort of way. In our relatively short friendship, you have taught me so much about knowing a place as it should be known…choosing to be a grateful steward of it…honoring the dignity of the cosmos in a microcosmic way. I’m sure mine aren’t the only tears upon finding “HeresHome” on

  3. Thank you Thomas, once more, for the empathy–a kind of feeling-with that is hard to find these days. I know you know. And that truly truly helps. 

  4. Ah, if I only had the cash, and the time left to settle in a new place, Fred, I would take up your offer. May the powers that be, be on your side in finding a new, and very appreciative owner for your dale. Steve.

  5. They’re out there:
    My wife and I have lived in Christiansburg & Blacksburg for the past 2+ years, taking our time to settle and find our new “forever home” here in Southwest Virginia. For the past year we’d been doing just that, scouring Zillow looking for the perfect details to lead us to this place. Be it a creek, livestock, hills, acreage, a view; we searched and drove thousands of miles from Hillsville to Shawsville, from Bland to Catawba and everywhere in between (yes, including wonderful Floyd). The more we looked, the more we wanted to wait and sooner we wanted it to happen. On properties that were vacant, we’d walk the fences and imagine the bees in the meadows, or where our garden would be and how we’d steward this land or that. These were amazing dream building days and helped us learn so much about the area and the people (and the roads) and what we were actually looking for as opposed to what we thought we wanted. Then we’d finally found it & realized it didn’t even have several of the boxes checked that we thought were “requirements.” But, all along this search we knew we had to get out there and couldn’t rely solely on an app, or a realtor to “know somebody.” We had to take our time, put boots on the ground and toes in the grass, so to speak. And we couldn’t have gotten started in the right direction without those listings & pictures and “details” on the webs to drive us.

    Your people are out there, Fred, searching, just like we were. I wish you all the best hope and luck in the world. Anyone looking for that type of land will surely see how much you’ve loved it.

    (…And if you do need a realtor to help highlight the details, ours is amazing and I’ll be happy to reach out to her on your behalf to see if she can take anything else on right now.)

    All the best,